In full bloom

Jocie Adams is flying high with Arc Iris
By CHRIS CONTI  |  March 26, 2014


Last summer singer-songwriter-composer and multi-instrumentalist Jocelyn Adams decided to leave her beloved bandmates the Low Anthem behind to cast her lot as a solo artist and would eventually recruit some new musical friends to form Arc Iris, which will release its eponymous debut album (Anti- Records) next Tuesday (the 1st). The band will celebrate with a hometown album release show at the Columbus (TLA’s homebase). Get there early; don’t be surprised if this one sells out prior to showtime.

Arc Iris provides a dynamic platform for Jocie to spin her vivid, sometimes stark poetic tales with her stunning voice taking center stage, backed by a like-minded eccentric and experimental new crew which isn’t afraid to challenge themselves across the 11 tracks. I caught up with Adams while she was on the road earlier this week (supporting Nicole Atkins) following a six-show run at SXSW (commended the NY Times: “songs that seesawed between the elfin delicacy of Joanna Newsom and some brassy raucousness”) as Arc Iris makes its way back up north for the PVD tour kickoff, eventually taking the band through the UK, France, and Germany this spring.

Another world tour is nothing new for Adams, who traversed the globe a few times with her the Low Anthem. I asked about the split from TLA co-founders Jeff Prystowsky and Ben Knox-Miller.

“I branched out from the Low Anthem because I wanted more space to spread my wings,” she said. “I have that space now and I’m having a marvelous time!” The parting was nothing but amicable (“She is a musical wonder, a dear friend, and will be missed,” read a statement saluting Adams on back in June 2013), but the solo seed may have been sown in 2011 when Adams quietly released a gorgeous album titled Bed of Notions. Her vocals were in the spotlight and subsequently stole the show on lullaby beauties “Mary Mary,” “Spindle,” and “Chastity.” The intricate and multi-faceted layers of sound first honed with in TLA fills her Bed of Notions, with plenty of harmonica, clarinet, and vintage pump organ throughout.

Her musical notions now in full bloom, Jocie has surrounded herself with an equally multi-talented cast of veteran musicians: cellist Robin Ryczek, who played on Notions, is a core member of Arc Iris, along with Zach Tenorio-Miller (piano), Mike Irwin (trumpet), Ray Belli (drums), Max Johnson (bass), and Charlie Rose (steel banjo and trombone), all of whom she stumbled upon at the Wooly Fair at the Steel Yard in Providence.

“Ray was banging on pipes, Zach was beatboxing, Robin and I were transfixed on a spaceman, Charlie was corralling the sheep rodeo, and Mike was spinning bracelets for pretty ladies out of cotton candy,” Adams recalled. “We all collided and decided to make a band.”

While Jocie penned the majority of the album on her own, those intricate layers are explored onstage with seamless spontaneity, similar to what I witnessed when the Low Anthem were recording inside an abandoned pasta sauce factory in Central Falls four years ago.

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